Tuesday, April 22

Obama: “Remaking the Middle East”: The American Gulag

Obama: “Remaking the Middle East”: The American Gulag

By Prof. James Petras
Global Research, April 22, 2014



"During the beginning of his first term in office President Obama promised “to remake the Middle East into a region of prosperity and freedom”. Six years later the reality is totally the contrary: the Middle East is ruled by despotic regimes whose jails are overflowing with political prisoners.  The vast majority of pro-democracy activists who have been incarcerated, have been subject to harsh torture and are serving long prison sentences.  The rulers lack legitimacy, having seized power and maintained their rule through a centralized police state and military repression.Direct  US military and CIA intervention, massive shipments of arms,military  bases, training missions and Special Forces are decisive in the construction of the  Gulag chain from North Africa to the Gulf States.

We will proceed by documenting the scale and scope of political repression in each US backed police state.  We will then describe the scale and scope of US military aid buttressing the “remaking of the Middle East” into a chain of political prisons run by and for the US Empire.

The countries and regimes include Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Turkey . . . all of which promote and defend US imperial interests against the pro-democracy majority, represented by their independent social-political movements.

Egypt:  Strategic Vassal State

A longtime vassal state and the largest Arab country in the Middle East, Egypt’s current military dictatorship, product of a coup in July 2013, launched a savage wave of repression

subsequent to seizing power. According to the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, between July and December 2013, 21,317 pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested.  As of April 2014, over 16,000 political prisoners are incarcerated.  Most have been tortured.  The summary trials, by kangaroo courts, have resulted in death sentences for hundreds and long prison terms for most.  The Obama regime has refused to call the military’s overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government a coup in order to continue providing military aid to the junta.In exchange the military dictatorship continues to back the Israeli blockade of Gaza and support US military operations throughout the Middle East.

Israel:  The Region’s Biggest Jailer

Israel, whose supporters in the US dub it the “only democracy in the Middle East”, is in fact the largest jailer in the region.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselm, between 1967 and December 2012, 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned at some point, over 20% of the population. Over 100,000 have been  held in “administrative detention” without charges or trial.  Almost all have been tortured and brutalized.  Currently Israel has 4,881 political prisoners in jail.  What makes the Jewish state God’s chosen… premier jailer, however, is the holding of 1.82 million Palestinians living in Gaza in a virtual open air prison. Israel restricts travel, trade, fishing, building , manufacturing and farming through air, sea and ground policing and blockades.  In addition, 2.7 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (West Bank) are surrounded by prison-like walls, subject to daily military incursions, arbitrary arrests and violent assaults by the Israeli armed forces and Jewish vigilante settlers engaged in perpetual dispossession of Palestinian inhabitants.

Saudi Arabia:  Absolutist Monarchy

According to President Obama’s ‘remaking of Middle East’ Saudi Arabia stands as Washington’s “staunchest ally in the Arab world”.  As a loyal vassal state, its jails overflow with pro-democracy dissidents incarcerated for seeking free elections, civil liberties and an end to misogynist policies.  According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission the Saudis are holding 30,000 political prisoners, most arbitrarily detained without charges or trial.

The Saudi dictatorship plays a major role bankrolling police state regimes throughout the region.  They have poured $15 billion into the coffers of the Egyptian junta subsequent to the military coup, as a reward for its massive bloody purge of elected officials and their pro-democracy supporters.  Saudi Arabia plays a big role in sustaining Washington’s dominance, by financing and arming ‘jailer-regimes’ in Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

Bahrain:  Small Country – Many Jails

According to the local respected Center for Human Rights, Bahrain has the dubious distinction of being the “top country globally in the number of political prisoners per capita”.  According to the Economist (4/2/14) Bahrain has 4,000 political prisoners out of a population of 750,000.  According to the Pentagon, Bahrain’s absolutist dictatorship plays a vital role in providing the US with air and maritime bases, for attacking Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.  The majority of pro-democracy dissidents are jailed for seeking to end vassalage , autocracy, and servility to US imperial interest and the Saudi dictatorship.

Iraq:  Abu Ghraib with Arab Characters

Beginning with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and continuing under its proxy vassal Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been tortured, jailed and murdered.  Iraq’s ruling junta, has continued to rely on US military and Special Forces and to engage in the same kinds of military and police ‘sweeps’ which eviscerate any democratic pretensions. Al-Maliki relies on special branches of his secret police, the notorious Brigade 56, to assault opposition communities and dissident strongholds. Both the Shi’a  regime and Sunni opposition engage in ongoing terror-warfare.  Both have served as close collaborators with Washington at different moments.

The weekly death toll runs in the hundreds.  The Al-Maliki regime has taken over the torture centers (including Abu Ghraib), techniques and jails previously headed and run by the US and have retained US ‘Special Forces’ advisers, overseeing the round-up of human rights critics, trade unionists and democratic dissidents.

Yemen:A  Joint US-Saudi Satellite

Yemen has been ruled by US-Saudi client dictators for decades.  The autocratic rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh was accompanied by the jailing and torture of thousands of pro-democracy activists, secular and religious, as well as serving as a clandestine torture center for political dissidents kidnapped and transported by the CIA under its  so-called “rendition” program.  In 2011 despite prolonged and violent repression by the US backed Saleh regime, a mass rebellion exploded threatening the existence of the state and its ties to the US and Saudi regimes.  In order to preserve their dominance and ties to the military, Washington and Saudi orchestrated a ‘reshuffle’ of the regime: rigged elections were held and one Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a loyal crony of Saleh and servant of Washington, took power.  Hadi continued where Saleh left off:  kidnapping, torturing, killing pro-democracy protestors… Washington chose to call Hadi’s rule “a transition to democracy”.  According to the Yemen Times (4/5/14) over 3,000 political prisoners fill the Yemen prisons.  “Jailhouse democracy” serves to consolidate the US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula.

Jordan:  A Client Police State of Longstanding Duration

For over a half century, three generations of reigning Jordanian absolutist monarchs have been on the CIA payroll and have served US interests in the Middle East.  Jordan’s vassal rulers savage Arab nationalists and Palestinian resistance movements; signed off on a so-called “peace agreement” with Israel to repress any cross-border support for Palestine; provide military bases in support of US, Saudi and EU training, arming and financing of mercenaries invading Syria.

The corrupt monarchy and its crony oligarchy oversee an economy perpetually dependent on foreign subsidies to keep it afloat: unemployment is running over 25% and half the population is subsisting in poverty.  The regime has jailed thousands of peaceful protestors.  According to a recent  Amnesty International Report (Jordan 2013), King Abdullah’s dictatorship “has detained thousands without charges”.  The jailhouse monarchy plays a central role in buttressing US empire-building in the Middle East and facilitating Israeli land grabbing in Palestine.

Turkey:  NATO Bulwark and Jailhouse Democracy

Under the reign of the self-styled “Justice and Development Party” led by Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has evolved into a major military operational base for the NATO backed invasion of Syria.  Erdoğan has had his differences with the US; especially Turkey’s cooling relations with Israel over the latters’ seizure of a Turkish ship in international waters and the slaughter of nine unarmed Turkish humanitarian activists.  But as Turkey has turned toward greater dependence on international capital flows and integration into NATO’s international wars, Erdoğan has become more authoritarian.  Facing large scale public challenges to his arbitrary privatization of public spaces and dispossession of households in working class neighborhoods, Erdoğan launched a purge of civil society ,class based movements and  state institutions.  In the face of large scale pro-democracy demonstrations in the summer of 2013, Erdoğan launched a savage assault on the dissidents.  According to human rights groups over 5,000 were arrested and 8,000 were injured during the Gezi Park protests.

Earlier Erdoğan established “Special Authorized Courts” which organized political show trials based on falsified evidence which facilitated the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of military officers, party activists, trade unionists, human rights lawyers and journalists, particularly those critical of his support for the war against Syria.  Despite conciliatory rhetoric, Erdogan’s jails contain several thousand Kurdish dissidents, including electoral activists and legislators (Global Views 10/17/12).

While Erdoğan has served as an able and loyal Islamist anchor against popular democratic and nationalist movements in the Middle East, his pursuit of greater Turkish influence in the region, has led the US to deepen its political ties with the more submissive and pro-Washington , pro-Israel Gulenist movement embedded in the state apparatus ,business and education.  The latter has adopted a permeationist-strategy: purging adversaries in its  quiet march to power from within the state.  The US still relies on Erdoğan’s “jailhouse democracy” to repress anti-imperialist movements in Turkey; to serve as a military anchor for the war against Syria; to back sanctions against Iran and to support the pro-NATO Maliki regime in Iraq.

The Middle East Gulag and US Military Aid

The police state regimes and the long-term authoritarian political culture in the Arab world is a product of long-term US military support for despotic rulers.  The absence of democracy is a necessary condition for expanding and advancing the US imperial military presence in the region.

A small army of US Islamophobic academics, “experts”, journalists and media pundits totally ignore the role of the US in promoting, sustaining and strengthening the ruling dictators and repressing the profoundly democratic mass movements which have erupted over a prolonged period of time.  Spearheaded by long-time pro-Israel Middle East scribes and scholars, in Ivy League universities, these propagandists, claim that Arab dictatorships are a product of “Islamic culture”,or  the “authoritarian personality of Arabs” in search of a ‘strongman’ to guide and rule them.  Ignoring or distorting the history of working class struggles, pro-democracy protests and affirmations, in all of the major Arab countries, these scholars justify the US ties to the dictatorships as “realistic policies” given the “available options”.

Wherever real democracy begins to emerge, where political rights begin to be exercised, Washington provokes coups and intervenes to bolster the repressive apparatus of the state (Bahrain 2011-14, Yemen 2011 to 2014, Egypt 2013, Jordan 2012 among numerous other cases). While the bulk of the Middle East “experts” blame the Arab citizens for authoritarian rule, they completely ignore and cover-up Israel’s racist majority which solidly backs the incarceration and torture of hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy Palestinians.

To understand the Middle East gulag requires a discussion of US ‘aid policy’ which is central to sustaining the ‘jailhouse regimes’.

US Aid to Egypt:  Billions for Dictators

The Egyptian police state anchors the US ‘arc of empire’ from North Africa to the Middle East.  Egypt has been actively engaged in destabilizing Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and collaborating with Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians.  The Mubarak dictatorship received $2 billion dollars a year from Washington – nearly $65 billion for its imperial services.  US aid strengthened its capacity to jail, and torture pro-democracy and trade union activists.  Washington continued its military support of dictatorial rule after the military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected government, to the tune of $1.55 billion dollars for 2014 .

Despite “expressions of concern” over the murder of thousands of pro-democracy protestors by the new military strongman General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, there was no cut in funding for so-called “counter-terrorism” and “security”.  To continue funding the dictatorship under US Congressional legislation, Washington refused to characterize the violent seizure of power as a coup . . . referring to it as a “transition to democracy”.  The key role of Egypt in US foreign policy is to protect Israel’s ‘eastern flank’. US aid to Egypt is product of the pressure and influence of the Zionist power configuration in Congress and the White House:  US aid is conditioned on Egypt’s ‘policing’ of the Gaza border, ensuring that Israel’s blockade is effective.  The White House supports Cairo’s repression of the majority of nationalist, anti-colonial Egyptians opposed to Tel Aviv’s dispossession of the Palestinians.  Insofar as Israel’s interests’define US Middle East policy, Washington’s financing of Egypt’s jailhouse dictatorship is in accord with Zionist Washington’s strategy.

Israel:  The US “Pivot” in the Middle East

Most independent and knowledgeable experts agree that US Middle East policy is largely dictated by a multitude of Zionist loyalists occupying key policymaking positions in Treasury, State Department, the Pentagon and Commerce as well as Congressional dominance by the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish Organizations and their 171,000 full time paid activists.  While there is some truth in what some critics cite as the divergence of the ‘real’ US ‘national interest’ from Israel’s colonial ambitions, the fact is that US leaders in Washington perceive a convergence between imperial dominance and Israeli militarism.  In point of fact a submissive Egypt serves wider US imperial and Israeli colonial interests.

Israel’s war on Lebanon against the anti-imperialist Hezbollah movement served US efforts to install a docile client as well as Israeli’s effort to destroy a partisan of Palestinian self-determination.  Washington’s divergence with Israel over Israel’s dispossession of all Palestine does run counter to Washington’s interest in a Palestinian mini-state run by neo-colonial Arab officials.  As a result of Zionist influence, Israel is the biggest per-capita US aid recipient in the world, despite having a higher standard of living than 60% of US citizens.  Between 1985-2014, Israel received over $100 billion dollars, of which 70% was military, including the most advance high technology weaponry.  Israel ,the country which has the world record for political prisoners and military attacks on its neighbors over the past forty years, holds the record for US military aid.  Israel as the premier ‘jailhouse democracy’ is a key link in the chain of gulags extending from North Africa to the Gulf States.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia competes with Israel as an incarceration center of pro-democracy dissidents; the Saudi’s recycle hundreds of billions of petro-rents through Wall Street, enriching local Saudi despots and overseas pro-Israel investment bankers.  The Saudi-US-Israeli convergence is more than incidental.  They share military interests in warring against pro-independence, pro-democracy Arab movements throughout the Middle East. Saudi houses the major US military base and the biggest intelligence operations in the Gulf.  It backed the US invasion of Iraq.  It finances thousands of Islamic mercenaries in the US-NATO proxy war against Syria.  It invaded Bahrain to smash the pro-democracy movement.  It intervenes with Washington in support of the Yemen police state.  It is the biggest and most lucrative market for the US military-industrial complex.  US military sales between 1951 – 2006 totaled $80 billion.  In October 2010 it signed off on a $60.5 billion purchase of US arms and services.

Bahrain:  A US Aircraft Carrier called a Country

Bahrain serves as the naval base for the US Fifth fleet – and an operative base for attacking Iran.  It has been servicing the occupation of Afghanistan and US control of oil shipping routes.  The Al-Khalifa dictatorship is extremely isolated, highly unpopular and faces constant pressure from the pro-democracy majority.  To bolster their vassal rulers, Washington has increased its military sales to the tiny statelet from $400 million between 1993-2000 to $1.4 billion in the subsequent decade.  Washington has increased its sales and military training program in direct proportion to the growth of democratic discontent, resulting in the geometrical growth of political prisoners.

Iraq:  War, Occupation,and the Killing Fields of a Jailhouse Democracy

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq led to the slaughter of nearly 1.5 million Iraqis (mostly civilians, non-combatants) at a cost of $1.5 trillion dollars and 4,801 US military deaths.  In 2006 the US engineered ‘elections’ led to the installation of the Maliki regime, buttressed by US arms, mercenaries, advisers and bases.  According to a recent study for the Congressional Research Office (February 2014), by Kenneth Kilzman, there are 16,000 US military personnel and “contractors” currently in Iraq.  Over 3,500 US military contractors in the Office of Security Cooperation bolster the corrupt Maliki police state.  The jailhouse democracy has been supplied with US missiles and drones and over $10 billion dollars in military assistance :this includes $2.5 billion in aid and $7.9 billion sales between 2005 – 2013.  For 2014 -2015 Malaki has requested $15 billion in weapons, including 36 US F-16 combat aircraft and scores of Apache attack helicopters.  In 2013 the Malaki regime registered 8,000 political deaths resulting from its internal war.

Iraq is a crucial center for US control of oil, the Gulf and as a launch pad to attack Iran.  While Maliki makes ‘gestures’ toward Iran, its role as an advanced link in the US imperial gulag defines its real ‘function’ in the Gulf region.

Yemen:  The Desert Military Outpost for the American Gulag

Yemen is a costly military outpost for Saudi despotism and US power on the Arabian Peninsula.  According to a study, Yemen: Background and US Relations by Jeremy Sharp for the Congressional Research Service (2014), the US has supplied $1.3 billion in military aid to Yemen between 2009-2014.  Saudi Arabia donated $3.2 billion in 2012 to bolster the Saleh dictatorship in the face of a mass popular anti-dictatorial uprising.  Washington engineered a transfer of power from Saleh to “President” Hadi and ensured his continuity by doubling military aid to keep the jails full and the resistance in check. According to the New York Times (6/31/13) Hadi was “a carry-over of dictator Saleh”.  The continuity of a jailhouse democracy in Yemen is a crucial link between the Egypt-Israel-Jordan axis and the Saudi-Bahrain imperial gulag.

Jordan:  Eternal Vassal and Mendicant Monarchy

Jordan’s despotic monarchy has been on the US payroll for over a half century.  Recently it has served as a torture center for kidnapped victims seized by US Special Forces engaged in the “rendition” program.  Jordan has collaborated with Israel in assaulting and arresting Palestinians in Jordan engaged in the freedom struggle.  Currently Jordan along with Turkey serves as a training and weapons depot for NATO backed mercenary terrorists invading Syria.  For its collaboration with Israel, Washington and NATO, the corrupt jailhouse monarchy receives large scale long-term military and economic aid.  The monarchy and its extended network of cronies, jailers and family, skim tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid, laundered in overseas accounts in London, Switzerland, Dubai and New York.  According to a Congressional Research Service Report (January 27, 2014), US aid to the Jordanian royal dictatorship amounts to $660 million per year.  An additional $150 million for military aid was channeled to the regime with the onset of the NATO intervention in Syria.  The fund was directed to build-up the infrastructure around the Jordan-Syria border.  In addition, Jordan serves as a major conduit for arms to terrorists attacking Syria: $340 million destined for “overseas contingencies” probably is channeled through Amman to arm the terrorists invading Syria.  In October 2012, Jordan signed agreements with the US allowing a large contingent of Special Forces to establish airfields and bases to supply and train terrorists.

Turkey:  A Loyal Vassal State with Regional Ambitions

As the southern military bulwark of NATO, on Russia’s frontier, Turkey has been on the US payroll for over 66 years.  According to a recent study by James Zanotti Turkey – US Defense Co-Operation:  Prospects and Challenges (Congressional Research Service, April 8, 2011) in exchange for bolstering the military power of Turkey’s “jailhouse democracy”, the US secured a major military presence including a huge air base in Incirlik a major operational center housing 1,800 US military personnel.  Turkey collaborated with the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and supported the NATO bombing of Libya.  Today Turkey is the most important military operational center for jihadist terrorists invading Syria. Despite President Erdoğan’s periodic demagogic nationalist bombast, the US empire builders continue to have access to Turkish bases and transport corridors for its wars, occupations and interventions in the Middle East and  South and Central Asia.  In exchange the US has stationed missile defense systems and vastly increased arms sales, so-called “security assistance”. Between 2006 – 2009 US military sales exceeded $22 billion dollars.  In 2013-14, tensions between Turkey and the US increased as Erdoğan moved to purge the state of the Gulenists, a US backed fifth column, which permeated the Turkish state and used its position to support closer collaboration with Israel and US military interests.

Conclusion

The expansion of the US Empire throughout North Africa and the Middle East has been built around arming and financing vassal states to serve as military outposts of the empire.  These vassal regimes, ruled by dictatorial monarchies, and authoritarian military and civilian rulers, rely on force and violence to sustain their rule.  The US has supplied the weapons, advisers, and financing allowing them to rule.  The US arc of imperial military bases stretching from Egypt through Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq , Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is protected by a chain of prison camps containing tens of thousands of political prisoners.

The US engagement, its pervasive presence throughout the region, is accompanied by a chain of jailhouse democracies and dictatorships.  Contrary to liberal and conservative policy pundits and academics, US policy for over 50 years has actively sought out, installed and protected bloody tyrants who have pillaged the public treasury, concentrated wealth, surrendered sovereignty and underdeveloped their economies.

Pro-Israel academics at  prestigious US universities have systematically distorted the structural bases of violence, authoritarianism and corruption in the Islamic world:  blaming the victims, the Turkish and Arab people, and ignoring the role of US empire builders in financing and arming the authoritarian civilian and military rulers and absolutist monarchies and their corrupt military, judicial and police officials.

Contrary to the mendacious tomes published by the prestigious University presses and written mostly by highly respected pro-Israel political propagandists, the remaking of the Middle East depends on the strength of the democratic currents in Islamic society.  They are found in the student movements, among the trade unionists and unemployed, the nationalist intellectuals and Islamic and secular forces who oppose the US Empire for very practical and obvious reasons.  Along with Israel the US is the main organizer of the vast chain of political prison camps that destroy the most creative and dynamic forces in the region.  Greater Arab vassalage provokes the periodic explosion of a vibrant democratic culture and movement; unfortunately it also results in  greater US military aid and presence.  The real clash of civilizations is between the democratic aspirations of the Eastern popular classes and the deeply embedded authoritarianism of Euro-American-Israeli  imperialism."


Dogs: Why are humans so difficult to please?

"NO! I'm not biting or chewing. I swear."
"Really? She got angry at you just because you peed on the floor?"



Saturday, April 19

Kevin Frayer photos of bird landing on top of Taj Mahal during Venus transit


A bird sits atop one of the domes of the landmark Taj Mahal as Venus, top left, begins to pass in front of the sun, as visible from Agra, India, on June 6, 2012.        (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press)
.

When I looked at this picture I thought it was a drawing but it is a photography. Amazing.
Two others by Kevin Frayer:

           
   Award needed!


Friday, April 18

Facebook: What makes a picture receive so many "Likes"? series


19,577 people like this.
14,782 shares


Henri Matisse's The Romanian Blouse

Painted in 1940 "The Romanian Blouse" belongs to a series of paintings Matisse did using the Romanian blouse, "Ie", as a motif.
The "Ie" blouses were used by peasants and nowadays blouses inspired by them are being sold all over the world.














Left: Romanian Suceava District, Bucovina folk costume. Romania Transylvania national costumes. Traditional embroidery patterns.
Right: Blouse inspired by the traditional Ie.





Thursday, April 17

Neuroscience is using functional magnetic resonance imaging as phrenologists




I have been watching the use of functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) in numerous movies, documentaries and non fiction series at the TV. I'm not a scientists but whenever I watch it or read an article claiming that X zone turned on in Z circumstance I say to myself: "So what?" and I start laughing.
I starting comparing these kind of studies the same as a phrenologist.
Today I decided to search what the experts have to say and found out that they do they same comparison.
Here are some examples:

The Brain Is Not Modular: What fMRI Really Tells Us
Metaphors, modules and brain-scan pseudoscience
Apr 21, 2008 |By Michael Shermer

"The atom is like a solar system, with electrons whirling around the nucleus like planets orbiting a star. No, actually, it isn't. But as a first approximation to help us visualize something that is so invisible, that image works as a metaphor.

Science traffics in metaphors because our brains evolved to grasp intuitively a world far simpler than the counterintuitive world that science has only recently revealed. The functional activity of the brain, for example, is nearly as invisible to us as the atom, and so we employ metaphors. Over the centuries the brain has been compared to a hydraulic ma­chine (18th century), a mechanical calculator (19th century) and an electronic computer (20th century). Today a popular metaphor is that the brain is like a Swiss Army knife, with specialized modules for vision, language, facial recognition, cheating detection, risk taking, spi­rit­uality and even God. (emphasis added)

Modularity metaphors have been fueled by a new brain-scanning technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We have all seen scans with highlighted (usually in red) areas where your brain “lights up” when thinking about X (money, sex, God, and so on). This new modularity metaphor is so seductive that I have employed it myself in several books on the evolution of religion (belief modules), morality (moral modules) and economics (money modules). There is a skeptical movement afoot to curtail abuses of the metaphor, however, and it is being driven by neuroscientists themselves. The November 11, 2007, edition of the New York Times, for example, published an opinion piece entitled “This Is Your Brain on Politics,” by neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues. The writers presented the results of their brain scans on swing voters. “When we showed subjects the words ‘Democrat,’ ‘Republican’ and ‘independent,’ they exhibited high levels of activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala, indicating anxiety,” the authors note. “The two areas in the brain associated with anxiety and disgust—the amygdala and the insula—were especially active when men viewed ‘Republican.’ But all three labels also elicited some activity in the brain area associated with reward, the ventral striatum, as well as other regions related to desire and feeling connected.” So the word “Republican” elicits anxiety and disgust, except for when it triggers feelings of desire and connectedness. The rest of the conclusions are similarly obfuscating. (emphasis added)

In a response befitting the self-correcting nature of science, Iacoboni’s U.C.L.A. colleague Russell Poldrack and 16 other neuroscientists from labs around the world published a response three days later in the Times, explaining: “As cognitive neuroscientists who use the same brain imaging technology, we know that it is not possible to definitively determine whether a person is anxious or feeling connected simply by looking at activity in a particular brain region. This is so because brain regions are typically en­gaged by many mental states, and thus a one-to-one mapping between a brain region and a mental state is not possible.” For example, the amygdala is activated by arousal and positive emotions as well, so the key to interpreting such scans is careful experimental design that allows comparison between brain states. (emphasys added)

Additional skepticism arises from knowing that fMRI measures blood-flow change, not neuronal activity, that the colors are artificially added in order to see the blood-flow differences and that those images are not any one person’s brain but are instead a statistical compilation of many subjects’ brains in the experiment. “Some of the claims made by neuroscientists sound like astrology,” Poldrack told me in an interview. “It’s not the science itself that is the problem. It’s taking a little bit of science and going way beyond it.” For example, there is the problem of reversing the causal inference, “where people see some activity in a brain area and then conclude that this part of the brain is where X happens. We can show that if I put you into a state of fear, your amygdala lights up, but that doesn’t mean that every time your amygdala lights up you are experiencing fear. Every brain area lights up under lots of different states. We just don’t have the data to tell us how selectively active an area is.”" (emphasis added)

you can find more at the site below

MRI's: The new phrenology?
What can brain scans really tell us about ourselves?
Published on February 1, 2011 by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. in Fulfillment at Any Age

and the book:
The New Phrenology
The Limits of Localizing Cognitive Processes in the Brain
By William R. Uttal

Overview
"William Uttal is concerned that in an effort to prove itself a hard science, psychology may have thrown away one of its most important methodological tools—a critical analysis of the fundamental assumptions that underlie day-to-day empirical research. In this book Uttal addresses the question of localization: whether psychological processes can be defined and isolated in a way that permits them to be associated with particular brain regions.

New, noninvasive imaging technologies allow us to observe the brain while it is actively engaged in mental activities. Uttal cautions, however, that the excitement of these new research tools can lead to a neuroreductionist wild goose chase. With more and more cognitive neuroscientific data forthcoming, it becomes critical to question their limitations as well as their potential. Uttal reviews the history of localization theory, presents the difficulties of defining cognitive processes, and examines the conceptual and technical difficulties that should make us cautious about falling victim to what may be a "neo-phrenological" fad."

There are other sites if you google.


Tuesday, April 15

First sight


Image:: from Anything but Ordinary.
The magic is gone when I analysed and found out it is photoshop. I hope you don't read it and keep enchanted.

Monday, April 14

Alison Hymes: the activist before incarceration in Western State Hospital, Virginia




I have been searching for Alison Hymes and found some of her comments in blogs and news organizations. She was a real activist and was really working for accountability in Virginia. Two examples:

Alison Hymes
28 May 2007 at 9:15 am
(here)
Thanks for linking to my blog. I’m Alison Hymes, thus the “Hymes” :), I’m Secretary of Virginia’s Mental Health Planning Council, member of the Advisory Committee for Region Ten’s Wellness Recovery Center (Crisis Stabilization for adults), member of the Taskforce on CIT for Charlottesville/Albemarle and member of the Taskforce on Committment of the Virginia Chief Justice’s Commission on Mental Health Law Reform. I don’t focus on children in the main although I am of course concerned about protecting children from abuse in the MH system as well as adults. If readers have concerns about MH in Virginia relevant to the Planning Council which oversees the federal block grant or in regards to the Commitment Taskforce, I am always interested in hearing from folks. I can be reached at AlisonHymes@spamex.com

LETTER- Thanks for no stigma
Published online 8:00am Thursday Apr 26th, 2007
and in print issue #0617 dated Thursday Apr 26th, 2007

Thank you for not scapegoating people with mental illness in your coverage of the massacre at Virginia Tech ["After the massacre," April 19]. Your coverage was almost unique in not taking the tack of increasing the general public's fear and ignorance about people living with mental illness. Clearly you already know, as apparently the New York Times does not, that people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.

Your coverage and its lack of stimatizing people with psychiatric disabilities was a highlight of a very hard week for all of us who work to decrease the prejudice against people with psychiatric labels.

Alison Hymes
Secretary, Virginia Mental Health Planning Council
Albemarle County

She was good an very determined. In other words a trouble.
She was incarcerated and is being a difficult person for psychiatrists, and, even for activists. Bad girl Alison.
There is something strange surrounding this case. Organizations and people who started campaigning for Alison refuse to say why they gave up. Why? How is Alison? No reply. "We do not know. W do not have contact with people who are in mental institutions..." OMY!
If an organization that claims to advocate for those who are in serious problem has started a campaign and after three years says "We don't know. We do not have a staff to do so."
Compliance? Are these the people who fight for a revolution in the medical paradigm?
Behaving like those they are fighting is surely not the right way.
Alison Hymes was silenced,

Sunday, April 13

Homage to Portela: Paulinho da Viola one of the greatest Brazilian samba compositors


One of the most beautiful sambas in Brazilian history.
Dedicated to the samba school "Portela" Paulinho da Viola did this song in 1969.
Portela was angry at him because he did a samba do another samba school "Mangueira".
I hope you like it.
But samba is just one of numerous styles we have in Brazil.
We have rock and rooooooooooollllllllllllllllllllllll too. lol
Yes, we do have some great bands.
I feel like crying when this music starts and I don't know why.

Anyway I was nine years old when it came out and I decided I would be a Portela follower. I never been to the place they get united to practice because it is far from my house. But I'll go in this lifetime. I want to go there because it is the place to watch the real samba being danced. Over the years money started changing Rio de Janeiro's carnival and changes were made to attract tourists. Money became the goal. The same as what happened to Hollywood just to give an example.

I'll tell you what I felt in Portela. When you are close to a "bateria" (the school of samba band) you simply cannot standstill. It is contagious, so strong, so powerful... you have to be there.
Incredible.


Friday, April 11

Alison Hymes case: Mindfreedom forgets one of it's collaborators locked in a mental institution

??????
I have already posted about Alison Hymes. Back in 2011 Minfreedom started some activism to set her free but all of a sudden it has all stopped and nothing is said about what is happening with Alison Hymes.
At her Facebook account a cry for help appears from time to time.
I know it is not easy to fight the system but in same cases it is crucial that a lot of noise is done. The last time Mindfreedom posted anything at their site about Alison was in 2013: an action alert from Alison's Frank. (here)
All those activists linked or not to Mindfreedom forgot about her and when her name is mentioned... silence.
There  are people fearing that the drugs that the Virginia Hospital has given to her made her health deteriorate very seriously.

This is Alison's article that is at Mindfreedom that might soon disappear:

Fight for Human Rights in Virginian Mental Health System
by Alison Hymes

"Although those who live outside of Virginia could easily assume that the assault on the civil rights of people with psychiatric labels in Virginia started with the tragedy at Virginia Tech., that is not the case.

The assault on our rights started in fact with the creation of a Commission on Mental Health Law "Reform" by our state's Supreme Court Chief Justice in the Fall of 2006. This Commission has only two individuals who identify as mental health consumers or psychiatric survivors (consumer/survivors), and has five taskforces all with only token representation from consumer/survivors, none of whom were chosen by the state's consumer network but instead chosen by the Chair of the Commission, Richard Bonnie of the University of Virginia's Institute on Law and Psychiatry in consultation with the Chief Justice of our state Supreme Court.

The Commission has as its goal the deprivation of what little civil liberties consumer/survivors in this state have now, although of course that is not what is being stated in public.

What people outside of Virginia need to know is this is not just the usual attack on the right of people to be drug-free in their own homes, fighting so-called Kendra's Law. Nor is this just fighting for the right to be free of involuntary hospitalization, to prevent lowering the standard for commitment which is already so loose that only 9% of commitment hearings end in dismissal.

This is also an attack on:

the very little confidentiality left in this state
an attempt to get rid of independent evaluators in the commitment process
an attempt to lengthen the initial detention stay
an attempt to use conditional release (forced drugging) on civilly committed individuals for the first time legally in this state
an attempt to have the state pay for attorneys to represent family members and other petitioners in commitment hearings, and
an attempt to force people into coercive so-called voluntary hospitalization by threatening a longer stay if they do not "volunteer."

In fact, the chair of the Commission would like to have as few actual commitment hearings as possible and have most people "agree" to either outpatient commitment or inpatient stays before they ever have a hearing.

What happens in Virginia is being looked at by other states very closely. So please watch out for what is happening in your own state legislature and please send whatever good thoughts or prayers you can to consumer/survivors in Virginia in our fight to retain any of our civil liberties.

I want to especially thank Jim Gottstein of PsychRights for his generous and valuable assistance in our fight against these erosions of our civil rights over the last year.."

Other articles by Alison can be found at this page in Mindfreedom. Till when? I don't know.
I'm exercising my MAD PRIDE. I'm proud I'm angry and mad at things being the way they are.

Update 4, 14/2014
It is being hard to receive any information about Alison. This is what happened at Mindfreedom's Facebook:

MindFreedom International MindFreedom has not forgotten Alison Hymes. We have sent MFI Shield alerts in the past about her being forced drugged. This can only be requested by Alison. If you want to contact her, Frank Blankenship is a friend and keeps MindFreedom informed. Thanks, Ana Luiza for bringing this to our attention.
April 12 at 10:03am · Edited · Like

Ana Luiza I do not understand why Mindfreedom cannot inform it's followers about Alison Hymes. Whenever her name is raised she is the one responsible for her actions and the one who is being a "bad girl". Her fortune is up to her is what is being said between the lines. In 2011 some call for actions and ater that silence. Psychiatrists do not say what is happening and the activists are also withholding information. Kafka would love it.


Wednesday, April 9

City or country?

I found it at Facebook: 136.173.000 shares and numerous comments.
It seems something went wrong with the Industrial Revolution. Some people want to grow their own food because of GMO and pesticides and others think that men are not meant to live in boxes. Medicines from plants and other sources other than pills are also a dream.
We would have to start things all over again.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."
Albert Einstein

Sunday, April 6

Amazing optical illusion and back to Muybridge


This is a very interesting effect and I feel like doing it and it brought back to my mind Muybridge.

The experiment by Muybridge
The origin of motion capture technology referred to as MoCap, recording movements of people or other moving objects and analyzing them, can be traced back to the experiment done by Edward Muybridge, an English photographer, in 1872. He photographed each movement of a horse galloping, by using twenty four cameras lined up on the horse track, that were triggered when the horse ran past. From this, a series of 24 pictures of a horse galloping stride by stride was made. Those pictures first revealed the motion of a horse’s movement. Actually, that was when they proved that there was a moment when all four legs were in the air at the same time [6].


Source: here and here


Saturday, April 5

Sad eyes





"Sad eyes need less questions and more hugs."
Traduttore tradittore.
Source: my friend Ingemar Eriksson.


Friday, April 4

Roger Waters to speak in Israel: the musician adheres the boycott by BDS

I hope that Mick Jagger reads Roger Waters' words published on March, 17 at Salon. Wanna know if I agree with Walters when he compared some Israelis to Nazis?
Strange that Israelis say the same about Palestinians: "Survey Shows Palestinians Far Worse Than the Inhabitants of Nazi Germany" by David Horowitz, 2011, July, 15.
We have to raise the reasons from both sides but I know which outcome an in-depth analysis would find: Zionists are Nazis. Note that I'm using the word "Zionists".

Salon exclusive: The Pink Floyd star details why he supports the boycott
Roger Waters

"Seventy years ago, my father – 2nd Lt. Eric Fletcher Waters – died in Italy fighting the Nazis. He was a committed pacifist, and a conscientious objector at the start of the war, but as Hitler’s crimes spread across Europe, he swapped the ambulance he had driven through the London blitz for a tin hat and a commission in the Royal Fusiliers and he joined the fight against fascism. He was killed near Aprilia in the battle for the Anzio Bridgehead on Feb. 18, 1944.  My mother – Mary Duncan Waters – spent the rest of her life politically active, striving always to ensure that her children, and everyone else’s children, had no Sword of Damocles in the form of the despised Nazi Creed or any other despicable creed hanging over their heads.

Last month, thanks to the good people of Aprilia and Anzio, I was able to pay tribute to the father I never knew by unveiling a memorial in the town where he died and laying a wreath to honor him, and all the other fallen. Losing my father before I ever knew him and being brought up by a single, working mother who fought tirelessly for equality and justice colored my life in far-reaching ways and has driven all my work. And, at this point in my journey, I like to think that I pay tribute to both my parents each time I speak out in support of any beleaguered people denied the freedom and justice that I believe all of us deserve.

After visiting Israel in 2005 and the West Bank the following year, I was deeply moved and concerned by what I saw, and determined to add my voice to those searching for an equitable and lawful solution to the problem – for both Palestinians and Jews.

Given my upbringing, I really had no choice.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society appealed to people of conscience all over the world to act where governments had failed. They asked us to join their nonviolent movement – for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) – which aims to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, to secure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to uphold the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the cities and villages they were violently forced out of in 1948 and 1967.

After more than two decades of negotiations, the vulnerable Palestinian population still lives under occupation, while more land is taken, more illegal settlements built, and more Palestinians are imprisoned, injured or killed struggling for the right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till their land, to aspire to each and every human goal, just like the rest of us. The Palestinians’ prolonged statelessness has made them among the most vulnerable of all peoples, particularly in their diaspora where, as now in Syria, they are subject, as stateless, powerless refugees, to targeted violence, from all sides in that bloody conflict, subject to unimaginable hardship and  deprivation and, in many cases, particularly for the vulnerable young, to starvation.

What can we all do to advance the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel and the diaspora? Well, BDS is a nonviolent, citizen-led movement that is grounded in universal principles of human rights for all people. All people! In consequence, I have determined that the BDS approach is one I can fully support.

I feel honored to stand in solidarity alongside my father and my mother, and alongside my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and so many others of all colors, faiths and circumstances from all over the world – including an ever-increasing number of courageous Jewish Americans and Israelis – who have also answered the call.

In the furor that exists in the U.S. today about BDS and the right and wrong of a cultural boycott of Israel, a quote from one of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi, has been on my mind. He prophetically said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”  The BDS movement is fulfilling its promise and fits Gandhi’s description.  Once dismissed by many as a futile strategy that would “never work,” BDS has gained much ground in recent weeks, bringing with it the expected backlash.

Divestment votes at major U.S. universities, European pension funds divesting from Israeli banks that do business with illegal Israeli settlements, and the recent high-profile parting of the ways between actor Scarlett Johansson and the global anti-poverty group Oxfam are symptoms of a growing resistance to the Israeli subjugation of the indigenous people of Palestine, and also, to the decades of occupation of land designated by the U.N. as a future state for the Palestinian people.

And with each new BDS headline, the ferocious reaction from the movement’s critics, with Netanyahu and his AIPAC fulminations in the vanguard, has risen exponentially.  I think it’s safe to say BDS is in the “then they fight you” stage.

Some wrongly portray the boycott movement, which is modeled on the boycotts employed against Apartheid South Africa and used in the U.S. civil rights movement, to be an attack on the Israeli people or even on the Jewish people, as a whole. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movement recognizes universal human rights under the law for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or color.

I do not claim to speak on behalf of the BDS movement, yet, as a vocal supporter, and because of my visibility in the music industry, I have become a natural target for those who wish to attack BDS, not by addressing the merits of its claims but, instead, by assigning hateful and racist motivations to BDS supporters like me. It has even been said, cruelly and wrongly, that I am a Nazi and an anti-Semite.

When I remarked in a recent interview on historical parallels, stating that I would not have played Vichy France or Berlin in World War II, it was not my intention to compare the Israelis to Nazis or the Holocaust to the decades-long oppression of the Palestinians.  There is no comparison to the Holocaust.  Nor did I intend or ever wish to compare the suffering of Jews then with the suffering of Palestinians now.  Comparing suffering is a painful, grotesque and diminishing exercise that dishonors the specific memory of all our fallen loved ones.

I believe that the root of all injustice and oppression has always been the same – the dehumanization of the other. It is the obsession with Us and Them that can lead us, regardless of racial or religious identity, into the abyss.

Let us never forget that oppression begets more oppression, and the tree of fear and bigotry bears only bitter fruit. The end of the occupation of Palestine, should we all manage to secure it, will mean freedom for the occupied and the occupiers and freedom from the bitter taste of all those wasted years and lives. And that will be a great gift to the world.

“Ashes and diamonds

Foe and friend

We were all equal

In the end.”

There are the Hassidic and Haredi mouvements the unite Jews that are against the state of Israel.


Wednesday, April 2

Rolling Stones lost integrity, ethics and tradition by planning show is Israel


Jerusalem (AFP) - The Rolling Stones announced plans Tuesday for an Israeli concert in June, prompting pro-Palestinian activists promoting a boycott of the country to say that would be equivalent to performing in apartheid South Africa.

To jubilation from the Israeli media, a spokeswoman for the British rock icons said the band will perform in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park on June 4 as part of its forthcoming European tour.

But a spokesman for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions committee noted that the Stones had been vocal opponents of racial segregation in South Africa, saying Israel also practices apartheid.

"Palestinian organisations urge the Rolling Stones to refrain from playing in apartheid Israel and not to condone Israel’s violations of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people,"Rafeef Ziadah wrote.

"The Rolling Stones were at the forefront of enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, but performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa during the apartheid era."

After months of rumours of an impending first-ever visit by the band, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, Israeli media were jubilant.

"It's official! The Rolling Stones are coming to Tel Aviv," proclaimed Haaretz daily's website.

It said Israeli promoter Shuki Weiss, once quoted as saying he would retire after bringing the Stones to Israel, had guaranteed the band $6.7 million (4.9 million euros) for the one-night stand.

"Israelis finally get some satisfaction as Rolling Stones confirm concert date," was the Jerusalem Post's headline.

"This is a historic and very meaningful visit," it quoted Weiss as saying.

"In these days when we hear calls for boycotts from around the world, it's not taken for granted that a band of this magnitude will come to Israel."

A growing number of governments and international businesses have said they will not trade with Israeli firms with ties to Jewish settlements, highlighting the creeping success of a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.

The movement works to convince them and celebrities to cut ties with Israeli companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a bid to repeat the success of the boycott that ended apartheid in South Africa.

Last week, the Stones postponed their tour of Australia and New Zealand after the suicide of Mick Jagger's girlfriend L'Wren Scott.

But the grieving front man's songwriting partner of 50 years, Keith Richards, vowed that they will soon be back on stage.

Source: Yahoo.